Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Breast Intentions

Michael is three weeks old (well, 3w1d!)  Which means three weeks of hugs, snuggles, kisses, and breastfeeding.
3 weeks old

I can count on my fingers the amount of times I actually fed Bobby and Maya at the breast.  They had expressed milk until they were 2 months old, then a mix of milk and formula until 3 months, when our breast milk journey came to an end.  With Michael, I don't have enough fingers for a day!  This kid likes to eat... A lot.

He's a thin kid, long and lanky (just like Dad!).  He's long enough for 3mo clothes, but girth wise, NB items are a better fit.  So, he's in loose 3 month (and 0-3) stuff, which makes me glad that we have very few NB things!  I have no worries that he is gaining weight.  While he is still a little guy, he eats constantly, will easily take 4-5oz in his nightly expressed milk feeding with Peter, and delivers on his wet/dirty diapers.  So, he's all good. Which makes it all good, all around.


It freaking hurts.

They rather than it.

My boobs being the they in question.

Thankfully, the major issue that causes pain- incorrect latching- isn't the issue.  It seems that it is a combo of extreme nipple sensitivity (this is an issue outside of nursing), bigger breasts (which means that, even with a good latch, Michael's mouth is only so big and can only fit so much boob), and a killer chomp from the little guy (when he gets teeth? all bets are off!).  He has a vice grip in there!  Removing him from the breast when he isn't interested in getting off? Not going to happen...

The fact that I'm running again has really brought this to the surface.  For the first two weeks, I was just wearing a soft nursing bra and nursing tank; beginning last week, I started putting on running bras and running shirts- OH MY GOODNESS.  The rubbing and pressure.... it's not my legs or lungs that hurt! It's my tatas!!!  Even wearing a nipple pad doesn't help... the pressure just doesn't feel good!

When Michael latches when I'm laying down, it is the worst.  The sense of pain isn't awful but it definitely isn't nice.  I think part of it is because my milk doesn't let down as quickly and, because of positioning, he doesn't get as much breast in his mouth.  Now, we only nurse this way in the middle of the night, around 4am.  Otherwise, I'm sitting up, which gives an easier let down reflex and also allows him to get more breast in his mouth.  The initial latch is painful; part of this is the let down and the suck causing a suction issue.  Once we get that squared away, things feel much better.  Which is a good thing, because Michael will nurse for an hour (or more).  We've had marathon sessions of 2 hours!  He'll eat, doze, and the second I go to move him, eat some more!  (And I'm not kidding... jaws of steel, people.  He is NOT going anywhere.)

As Sarah and I were running yesterday, we were chatting about how things were going and I shared with her that my boobs were sore and that, if I weren't as committed to breastfeeding as I am, I would totally understand stopping.  And her comment was one that I think we in the breastfeeding community really should take to heart: it gives you a perspective of the "other side".

We often hear how "breast is best" and women who choose not to breastfeed (for whatever reason) or who stop breastfeeding early on are vilified (not by everyone, but we've all seen it) or are made to feel "less than" because they aren't giving their baby the breast.  Yes, support plays a HUGE role; research shows that women who feel supported and who are supported during breastfeeding tend to do so longer and have happier breastfeeding journeys.  But, outside of that, I think that there are other issues at play.  And pain can clearly be an issue.

Pain is a part of breastfeeding.  Literature will tell you that it doesn't hurt but many moms will tell you otherwise: that, even with normal latch and all systems go, there can still be pain associated with nursing- sometimes lasting only a few days, other times lasting months and even the full breastfeeding journey.  It can stem from the mother's breasts (which is where my issues stem from) and sometimes there isn't a quick fix.  And that can make you want to stop.  For some, it might mean going to a pump exclusively (which can cause less discomfort) or straight to formula.  It doesn't mean less love for your baby or that you are putting your comfort in front of your baby.  As with most things, it is making the decision that works best for your family and what you need to do to make things work as smoothly as they can.

I believe in breastfeeding.  I do believe that breastfeeding is better for the baby from a nutritional standpoint than  formula is.  Bobby and Maya were formula fed for the majority of their infancy; they are fine and healthy, and I'm glad it was an option for us when my body couldn't produce.  Michael is a breast milk, breastfed baby, and I'm grateful that my body is producing well enough for him to eat this way.  I'm also grateful that I was exposed to breastfeeding as a child and young women, and that I've heard the firsthand accounts of it not all beings sunshine and roses, even when you do love it and want it.  I'm glad that I'm a part of a natural birthing and parenting community (and professional community) that talks about the good, bad, and ugly of breastfeeding, and that I can accept this is part of the journey that isn't so fun, while being really REALLY happy that I don't have cracked, broken nipples or some of the physical issues that can make my breastfeeding look like a walk in the park.

While I've tried very hard to never judge a mom by how her baby eats, I know that I personally felt the pain of not being able to breastfeed and that I felt really jealous of the moms who could (and, to be honest, always wondered if the bottle feeding moms I met 'could' breastfeed and just 'chose' not to, and that thought made me jealous too).  Sarah was right; this experience, while not huge on the bad scale, has given me eyes to see it differently.  If you don't have the support, if you don't really have the desire to breastfeed for the sake of breastfeeding, if you are fine with the pump (or with formula) and don't care one way or the other, or a variety of other "IF"s, then pain when breastfeeding- especially if you came from the point of view that it wouldn't hurt unless there was an issue- could be a determining factor in stopping.  And you might feel bad or guilty, but the pain might just be too much.

I've found that women can be the most indicting of other women, when, in reality, we should be able to understand each other better.  The same is true of mothers; with all the talk of the "Mommy Wars" (which, honestly, I didn't think there was a war going on, but apparently, I'm wrong according to the media) and how we should or shouldn't breastfeed/cosleep/circumcise/etc, we judge and judge and judge... and all we do is hurt each other.

I'm not saying you should be proud of your choices and that you shouldn't bring awareness to what you believe in.  Hey, I believe in breastfeeding and a parent at home (whenever possible) and cosleeping and selective/delayed vaccination and not circumcising children!  Bring on the discussion!  But it's discussion- not a war.  There should be understanding and not just a mere tolerance.  There should be the basic belief that, regardless of whether or not a parent is making a choice different from your own, that they are doing what they truly believe is best for their family- share your choices and points of view, but judging theirs is just, well, mean. 

God knows, we judge ourselves harshly enough.  Perhaps if we all were just a tad bit more understanding of each other, we might find that we aren't even that different.


Fran said...

I had terrible time at the beginning with BF Martina. I never did it with Oliver so I didn't know, but it was sore, and bleeding. But it will get better. I can't say I enjoy it (3 month now) but it's ok and no longer a pain. I so remember those 10-20 second at the beginning of each feed....they would make me pee in my pants! But mostly I had this queasiness which has now also gone. You are doing great! Fran

Paula said...

People do need to be more understanding; what works for one family does not mean it works for all. I did not choose to breastfeed either of my children; I got more flack for not inducing lactation when we adopted Jess than I did for letting my milk dry up after giving birth to Jason. We circumcise. We need two incomes for our lifestyle which is not grand but does include things we feel are important that we would not be able to provide on one. I co-slept with one, not with the other. I don't believe in spanking or crying it out. If we could all practice more understanding and less judging, the mommy wars would have a chance of ending. The message on this link I found I loved -